Civil War veteran Colonel Robert Ingersoll was the foremost orator of his time. In the years following the war, he traveled the country and delivered long-winded lectures, sometimes more than three hours in length, to packed audiences. He spoke on a wide variety of subjects, religion being prominently featured among them. Even though his father was a Christian minister, Ingersoll openly doubted the inspiration of the Bible, ridiculed the miracles found in its pages, and called into question the existence of God. In Ingersoll’s opinion, if the God of the Bible did exist He was a cowardly, bloodthirsty, vengeful tyrant.
Oftentimes Ingersoll would close his religion lectures by pulling out his pocket watch, raising his hand dramatically, looking upward, and saying something like this:
God, are you up there somewhere? I don’t believe you exist; but if you do, I here and now brand you a coward and a bully. I hate you and defy you and will do so as long as I live. So why don’t you kill me right now? If there is a God, I dare Him to kill me before this minute is up!
After one minute had passed, Ingersoll would put his watch back in his pocket and declare that he had conclusively proved in sixty seconds that God didn’t exist. This “big finish” proved so effective that dozens of Ingersoll wannabees started running around the country, giving their atheistic lectures, holding up their watches, and daring God to kill them in one minute. Not one of them was struck dead.
There was, however, one of these imitators who had the misfortune of having a Moody Bible Institute student in his audience at Chicago’s Washington Square Park, commonly known as Bughouse Square. After hearing the orator rail against God at length and then do Ingersoll’s famous watch bit, the student took the soapbox himself and addressed the crowd by saying the following:
Friends, just a few minutes ago as I was walking down Clark Street to come here, a little boy came out of an alley and stepped in front of me. I had never seen him before; but he doubled up his fists, looked up into my face and with hatred in his eyes and anger in his voice yelled, “If you wanna fight just start somethin’. I ain’t scared of you, ya big coward! Ya dirty bully! Go on and hit me – I dare ya to.” Then that little boy began to swear and call me vile names as he continued daring me to hit him.
Of course, I could have slapped him head over heels with one hand, but nothing was further from my mind. He was dressed in rags and was dirty from head to foot. He needed a haircut, looked like he might be hungry and was certainly miserable.
As I saw the hatred and bitterness in his face and heard the vile words pouring from his lips, I pitied him with all my heart and longed to help him, to bathe him, dress him, feed him and help him find a home; but when I spoke kindly to him, he cursed and reviled me all the more. Sadly, I stepped around him and came on down the street.
Imagine my amazement when I found the same scene being enacted here! Back there a dirty little boy stepped up on a soapbox and dared me to strike him. Here a dirty little man stepped up on a soapbox and dared God to kill him!
I did not strike the boy because I pitied him and longed to help him, clean him up, dress him and give him a home. God did not kill this man because He loves him and longs to save him, cleanse him from his sins, clothe him in a robe of righteousness, feed him the Bread of Life and give him a home in Heaven.
That was an awesome reply, wasn’t it? And if we are looking for a Bible verse to go along with it, I’d say that 2 Peter 3:9 fits the bill nicely:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.